Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazing Grace

My heart is drawn out in thankfulness to thee,
for thy amazing grace and condescension
to me
in influences and assistances of thy Spirit,
for special help in prayer,
for the sweetness of Christian service,
for the thoughts of arriving in heaven,
for always sending me needful supplies,
for raising me to new life when I am
like one dead.
I want not the favour of man to lean upon
for thy favour is infinitely better.
Thou art eternal wisdom in dispensations
towards me;
and it matters not when, nor where, nor how
I serve thee,
nor what trials I am exercised with,
if I might but be prepared for thy work and will.
No poor creature stands in need of divine grace
more than I do,
And yet none abuses it more than I have done,
and still do.
How heartless and dull I am!
Humble me in the dust for not loving thee more.
Every time I exercise my grace renewedly
I am renewedly indebted to thee,
the God of all grace, for special assistance.
I cannot boast when I think how dependent
I am upon thee for the being and every act
of grace;
I never do anything but depart from thee,
and if ever I get to heaven it will be because
thou willest it, and for no reason beside.
I love, as a feeble, afflicted, despised creature,
to cast myself on thy infinite grace and goodness,
hoping for no happiness but from thee;
Give me special grace to fit me for special services,
and keep me calm and resigned at all times,
humble, solemn, mortified,
and conformed to thy will.

-The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers and Devotions


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Emotions and the Spiritual Life

I posted this on 11 October 2006 and is reposting here because it is so insightful.

Emotions and Spiritual Direction

Kathleen Fischer, Working with the Emotions in Spiritual Direction: Seven Guiding Principles, Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction. Vol.12. No.13. September 2006

Fisher, obviously a very experienced psychotherapist has given us seven guiding principles for working with emotions in spiritual direction.

1. Emotions belong at the center of spirituality, not at its edges.

It has taken us a long time but finally we have come to the realization that a holistic spirituality has emotions at the center of spirituality. I agree fully with Fisher in this. In many traditions, especially the Evangelical tradition, we value the intellectual, treating the emotions as unreliable guides. It has become a major stop for us to acknowledge that we are emotional beings. Donald Coggan, the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury once said that the longest journey in our spiritual life is from the head to the heart.

2. Emotions are not opposed to reason, in fact, they are a mode of knowing.
“The heart has its reasons that reasons does not know”. I agree with Fisher here that emotion is a way of knowing. If we learn to acknowledge and name our emotions and trace it back to the cause, it often gives us new insights into a lot of issues. That is because of the mechanism of denial that blocks our reasoning sequence. Fisher also formed a few questions to help us in our prayer reflection:
· What is the feeling in me like and how do I picture it?
· Does my anger issue in a sense of resolve and creative direction, or is it eating away at body and spirit, alienating me from others and interfering from prayer?
· Am I choosing to hold tight to feelings of hurt and sorrow in spite of the grace that keeps me from fully using my gifts in the ministry, or should I risk moving past it?
· Do feelings of guilt undermine my trust in God and myself, or can I make peace with my finitude and the limits of life?
· Can I celebrate the joy and peace I experience this day as God’s gift? (p.29)

3. Naming emotions accurately and exploring their relationship to the Spirit requires patient, attentive listening.

Fischer notes that emotions often come as “interwoven clusters”. Thus it is the role of a spiritual director to carefully untangle the whole clusters. Often anger may come together with the fear of death, shame or dearth.

4. Bringing hidden and unacknowledged emotions to awareness frequently leads to breakthroughs on the spiritual journey.
It has been noted that sometimes we have feelings about our feelings. “We are ashamed of our sexual desire, guilty about our jealousy, afraid of our anger-and sometimes the feeling about the feeling is worst than the initial feeling itself.” (Italics author’s). This is where careful listening and providing a safe space comes in. A safe space is where a directee can feel secure to explore his or her own emotions without the feeling or being judged by the director.

5. Tracing emotional memory, the history of how we came to feel the way we do, often liberates a person spiritually.
We have emotional memories. The smell of cherry blossoms may bring back memories of a holiday in Japan. Emotional memories offers the director many opportunities to strengthen or weaken the hold the past. I strongly support Fischer’s statement that we allow the memories to surface rather than to probe for them. When a memory, especially a negative memory surface by itself, the directee may be ready to deal with it. Prematurely bringing out negative memories may be harmful to the directee.

6. Praying with the imagination and incorporating the arts into spirituality leads to insight and conversion.
The arts have always had a highway into our heart. Hence the spiritual director must be familiar with ways of using the arts; creative paintings, music, icons, mandala to help their directees identify and deal with their emotions. Imaginative praying especially using bible stories is a powerful tool.

7. Spiritual directors need to pay prayerful attention to their own emotional experience, inside and outside the time of direction.
Spiritual directors must always be doing their own emotional work so that they will know where they stand with themselves. Aside from that, they must be listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Sometimes, issues may be hidden from the director by the skilful psychological defenses of the directee. In such cases, the Holy Spirit will uncover the deception and fgo to the heart of the matter.

This is an informative article contain the distilled wisdom from Kathleen Fischer who has been a psychotherapist and spiritual director for more than twenty years.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Glimpses of Las Vegas


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Eating Fresh Seafood in the Desert

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Glimpses of the Grand Canyon (3)

Erosive forces continue to shape the Grand Canyon today, millions of years after it began to form. Normal channel erosion alone, however, cannot explain the many kilometers that separate its rims. The strongest explanation holds that the major factor in the widening of the canyon has been activity from tributary drainage systems -- the side streams, rivulets, and gullies outside the main river channel. The greatest erosive force in these tributaries is the fast-moving landslide called a debris flow.


Glimpses of the Grand Canyon (2)

 carved out of the rocks by water

Colorado River - the 'river of many colours' 


Monday, September 19, 2011

Glimpses of the Grand Canyon (1)

 it's all due to water


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grand Canyon and San Francisco

Will be visiting the Grand Canyon and San Francisco the next few days.


Friday, September 09, 2011

Why are e-books so expensive?

Why is e-books so expensive?

Michael Hyatt,a former publisher at Thomas Nelson provide an this question a couple of years ago.

3D Rendering of the Word “eBook” Using Conventional Type - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #12661284

Let me begin by putting things in perspective. First, the retail price has already been adjusted. As you are probably aware, Amazon is selling most eBooks for $9.99. That is already roughly half the price (depending on the format) of the typical physical book.

While Amazon is currently buying these books from some publishers at a discount off the physical retail price of the book, this will ultimately change. When it does, publishers will net approximately 70% of the retail selling price or $7.00. (This is often referred to as “the agency model.”) This will fluctuate up or down, depending on where retail pricing levels ultimately land.

read more

Hyatt is right and amazon is no longer selling its ebook at USD 9.90. Just a cursory look at the Kindle store will show that an ebook may cost more that a paperback and cost slightly less than a hardcover. Tom Clancy's Against All Enemies kindle e-book cost USD 14.99, hardcover USD 16.22 and paperback USD 9.90. Why is the e-book so expensive if all else remain the same? It does not take an increase of so much cost to digital preparation, quality assurance and digital preparation, does it?

One reason may be about publishers and their bottomlines. The reason why amazon increased their price is due to pressure from publishers.

Amazon has given in to publisher pressure and agreed to abandon their $9.99 price point for eBooks...Publisher Macmillan felt that the $9.99 price devalued many of its bestsellers, which often sell for $30 in hardcover format. In response to the pricing dispute, Amazon briefly removed all Macmillan books from its store last week. However, the boycott lasted only a few days before Amazon gave in to Macmillan's demands...Publishers seem more interested in protecting the value of their hardcover books than competing in a digital format. Will higher eBook prices convince you to purchase a physical copy of your next novel, or will accept a modest price increase given that eBooks are typically cheaper? read more
While publishers argue that it is to protect their hardcover books ( I wonder how many people actually purchase hardcover books) I suspect it is just to increase their margins. After all, there are now less physical bookstores around for them to squeeze. I agree with Ken Anderson in his blog, The Scholarly Kitchen post The Expensive e-Book.

I’d argue with Bransford’s assertion (a recent analysis, Bransford explains why e-books can list at higher prices than print books) that the publisher’s incentives are predominantly rational — if they’re based on revenues instead of net income, they’re questionable; if they’re based on existing contracts and obligations, they’re not rational but institutionalized, a difference worth noting; if they’re based on current sales proportions (print selling the majority of books), they’re rational but only for the time being; and if they’re habituated, they’re certainly not rational but comfortable. And by pricing their e-books against the revenue model of print instead of the income model of print, publishers are creating a pricing practice that has consumers justifiably confused, as Bransford notes:
But the biggest problem . . . is that it creates a great deal of consumer confusion and angst. It doesn’t make any intuitive sense for e-books to cost more than paper. By keeping e-book prices high, it opens up a huge opportunity for the 99-cent Kindle bestsellers to exploit. Also: As the music industry found out, annoy digital consumers at your peril.
 I echo Anderson and remind publishers that they annoy digital consumers at their peril. It is the economics of value. if you sell cheap, more people will buy and you actually make more money. If it is too expensive, less people will buy and they will lose money.

I may sell my new e-book Tales from the Monastery: Spiritual Formation the Asian Way at USD 0.99. What do you think? Will you buy?



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Thursday, September 08, 2011

45 years of Star Trek



National Association of Christian Counsellors Malaysia

I am happy at the formation of this association for Christian counsellors in Malaysia. It is long overdue. I wonder if there is a place in this association for spiritual directors?



Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Be Content

Here is a post from my mentor's blog Reflections of an RSCJ.

"Be content, be content."

Here is a quote from Thomas Merton that I took yesterday from "The Book of Hours":
Be content, be content.
We are the Body of Christ.
We have found Him, He has found us.
We are in Him, He in us.
There is nothing further to look for, except the deepening of this life we already possess.
Be content."

HT Helen.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Ring of Power

Three Rings for marriage foundations under the sky,
Seven for principles of marriage carved in stone,
Nine for the Holy Spirit fruit that marriage underlie,
One for the marriage vows on the wedding throne
In the Land of Marriage where blissfulness lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to guide them,
One Ring to bring them all and in matrimony bind them.
In the Land of Marriage where blissfulness lie.

with apologies to
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

--- J.R.R. Tolkien's epigraph to The Lord of The Rings.